Political football

FIFA has provisionally suspended Cameroon’s football federation (FECAFOOT) as the fallout from last month’s election continues.

FIFA said its decision was taken “on account of government interference”.

The suspension could prevent Cameroon playing a key World Cup qualifier against Libya on 6 September.

Ironically, the suspension came on the same day the national side went top of their World Cup qualifying group, because Togo fielded an ineligible player against them.

The results of the 19 June FECAFOOT polls were cancelled by the body’s own appeals committee after technical complaints from the defeated candidates.

Iya Mohammed was re-elected as the organisation’s president despite still being detained by the Cameroon authorities for alleged financial mismanagement of the state-owned cotton company.

FIFA said in a statement: “The FIFA statutes oblige member associations to manage their affairs independently and with no influence from third parties.”

The world governing body says it will help set up an emergency committee to run Fecafoot, whose main aim will be to organise and hold elections by 31 March 2014.

The suspension will be lifted once the emergency panel is allowed into Fecafoot’s headquarters to carry out their business unhindered.

The most immediate casualty of the ban could be club side Coton Sport, who are due to take part in the group stages of the African Champions League which begin on 20 July.

Meanwhile, Cameroon were promoted to the top of their 2014 World Cup qualifying group after FIFA ruled Togo had used an ineligible player in a match between the two countries last month.

Togo won 2-0 in Lome but FIFA has awarded Cameroon a 3-0 win after Togo admitted Alaixys Romao should have been suspended.

Inter city merger

The agent of Paris Saint-Germain striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, among others, has suggested that Milan and Inter should consider merging in a bid to become more competitive in Europe.

Yeah, why not. In fact,why stop there? Why not merge the whole of Serie A into one club. That would definitely be a match for most teams.

With Italian football in the midst of a downturn, both economically and in sporting terms, Mino Raiola believes he has come up with a solution to make the country more competitive in Europe. It may seem to most sane observers that this is a case of taking the world’s largest sledgehammer to crack the planet’s smallest nut, but Raiola, believes it to be a viable solution.

“It’s not a provocation but rather an idea,” Raiola told Sky Sport 24. “For me, two big clubs like Inter and Milan should merge to cut costs because they have hundreds of millions of expenses and rather than selling to foreign investors, they could form one single club for the city.

“This way, they could compete with Europe’s biggest clubs. It’s better to have one healthy club than two halfway competitive sides. Lazio and Roma should do the same.

“Italy has got to change the way in which it thinks, it has got to become more pragmatic.”

Or, it could cling on to over a century’s worth of history and ride out the current storm, aware that in football, as in most areas of life, these things are cyclical. Raiola’s remedy is not so much short-term thinking as Mayfly thinking.

Match fixing latest

Two Serie A players have beeb banned for three months and 10 days and fined 10,000 euros each on Friday after entering plea bargains in a long-running match-fixing scandal.

Torino striker Paulo Vitor de Souza Barreto and Genoa defender Giovanni Marchese were handed the bans by the Italian Football Federation for failing to report alleged match-fixing in the Serie B match between Salernitana and Bari in May, 2009.

Salernitana won the match 3-2.

Davide Lanzafame, who is on loan at Hungarian club Honved from Sicilian side Catania, received a 16-month ban and a 40,000 euros fine after also entering a plea bargain.

The sentences were handed down after investigations into matches involving Bari in the 2008-2009 Serie B season and the 2010-2011 Serie A campaign.

The prosecution alleges that players deliberately threw matches against Sampdoria and Palermo in return for 140,000 euros.

 The inquiry is being conducted by magistrates in Bari and federal prosecutor Stefano Palazzi. Seven players agreed a plea-bargain on Thursday.

Super Mario

Mario Balotelli has promised to tease former Manchester City team-mate Carlos Tevez over his decision to join Juventus instead of Milan when the Serie A season begins.

Last week saw the Argentinian striker leave City after four years to join the Italian champions, prompting Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani to make public his disappointment the 29-year-old had turned down an alternative move to San Siro.

Balotelli chose Milan when leaving the Etihad Stadium in January and he admitted trying to persuade his former colleague to join him.

He told Tuttosport: “Tevez is my friend and I told him to come to Milan, but he didn’t listen and went to Juve instead.

“So he should understand where I’m coming from if I take the mick out of him on the pitch.”

The banter, one can imagine will be like a script from Seinfeld.

The 22-year-old is keen to see new names come to San Siro as Milan bid to improve on a third-placed finish and catch champions Juve.

Balotelli does, however, see fellow striker Stephan El Shaarawy’s decision to commit his future to Milan as a step in the right direction.

“I hope that Milan can strengthen a little because, although we are strong, we will need reinforcements to compete with other teams in Europe,” he added.

“I sent Stephan a message asking him how it went with Galliani and he told me he was staying, so I told him he’d made a good choice. I’m happy.

“Personally, it’s nice to be told you’re indispensable but in football you never know. Milan is in my heart – it’s a great club with great fans. I’m happy here right now and so I will stay here.”

Up in arms

Paris Saint-Germain have criticised the French Football Federation’s decision to extend the club’s sporting director Leonardo’s initial nine-month ban.

The governing body decided to extend the ban to encompass the entire 2013-2014 season after an appeal hearing lodged by him against the initial punishment handed down on May 31.

Leonardo was found guilty of shoving referee Alexandre Castro in the tunnel following Les Parisiens’ 1-1 draw against Valenciennes on May 5, with the incident being caught on camera by Canal Plus television.

PSG have since expressed their dismay at the FFF’s sanction, releasing an official statement on Friday, which read:

“Paris St Germain acknowledges the verdict passed down by the French Football Federation’s Appeals Commission, published on the Federation website on Thursday, concerning the Club’s Sports Director Leonardo and the conditional withdrawal of points for the club.

“The club deplores the severity of the new, harsher penalty handed down by the Commission to Leonardo, in whom the club reiterates its total confidence.

“Paris St Germain will consider its future legal options once it has received and studied the wording of the Appeals Commission’s decision.”

They may also wish to consider the incident itself in which a match official was shoulder barged by Leonardo.  Perhaps then, they will realise that the punishment was proportionate.

Goal of the day

Fagiano Okayama’s Yuki Oshitani strides forward and unleashes a venomous dipping effort against Vissel Kobe.

Quote of the day

 “FIFA wishes to celebrate the World Cup’s 100 years in Argentina and Uruguay, I can confirm that. (An agreement) has been signed by the two (national) associations (in Argentina and Uruguay). What will we do? We’ll see, but surely it will be something of quality.” 

Argentine FA president Julio Grondona on the plans for the 2030 World Cup finals. So much for spreading the game to new territories. The bid from Mars will just have to wait until 2034.

Rude awakening

New Stoke signing Marc Muniesa admits he found it difficult to leave boyhood club Barcelona in order to move to the Premier League.

What he is going to make of life at Stoke under Mark Hughes doesn’t bear thinking about.

The 21-year-old signed a four-year deal with the Premier League outfit, after departing the Camp Nou on a free transfer following the expiry of his contract with the Catalan club.

“It is sad to leave Barca, my home for all my life, but you must understand that one stage ends and another starts and you must try to grow,” he told Mundo Deportivo.

The Spain Under-21 international also said he holds no grudges over Barca even though they only announced their intention to release him at the end of the season.

“They took a while, yes, but I am grateful that they gave me the chance to play for Barca B this season and they have been respectful to the end,” he added.

“I am thankful for everything, they have allowed me to play many years for Barcelona, that is what I wanted as a child. I am very happy, I wanted to know where I was going to play and now my family and I we are finally calm.

“We now know where we will live for the next four years.”

In Stoke. The Black Country.

Pep talk

Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp says that it will be difficult for new Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola to emulate what Jupp Heynckes did in his final season in charge.

Heynckes guided Bayern to the treble in the 2012-13 season and many expect them to continue their dominance under the former Barcelona coach following his record of 14 trophies in four years in Spain.

“There could definitely be more appealing working circumstances for a coach. It was rather obvious that it would be like this, though,” he was quoted as saying by Bild.

Having suffered two years of intense rivalry with Real Madrid coach, Jose Mourinho, while in charge of Barcelona, the last thing Guardiola needed was a new mortal enemy to trade blows with. But, mercifully, Klopp appeas not to be cut from the same cloth as the Portuguese man and he came to praise not bury his new adversary.

“I think that we are all just happy that Pep himself arrived at his unveiling by foot and didn’t come hovering into the press room,” he said.

“Pep is the most extraordinary coach that comes into mind. He’s a very nice guy and incredibly successful. That’s not a bad thing for Bayern.

“And the team did not exactly get any worse compared to last season. So one should expect them to do reasonably well.”